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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

The Morningside Years

Reviewed: January 17, 2003
By: Peter Gzowski
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
335 Pages, $19.99

I picked up The Morningside Years last year in a fit of despondency after the death of Peter Gzowski, when it seemed that his name was everywhere and we were all lamenting the passing of an era.

Well, the era had really passed already. We’d gone to the era of Michael and Avril (remember Avril?) on This Morning, the program that sounded and tasted a lot like its ancestor, but which you couldn’t make reference to without sounding like you were related to Jacob Two-Two (Did you hear This Morning this morning?).

When Shelagh finally got the job that a lot of listeners thought she should have had in the first place, This Morning got to sounding even more Morningsidish, partly because she had spent so much time in the guest host’s chair, but then came the rumours that the whole shebang was going to be tossed out and revamped.

And now we are finally reorganized into The Current, which is interesting when I get to hear it, (but who starts listening to anything on the half-hour? Well, 8:37 more like...) and Sounds Like Canada, which um, could be called Sounds a lot like This (Country in the) Morning(side), except that it just DOESN’T have a theme song that you can hum.

Oh well, the point is that this book collects a lot of scripts and conversations from fifteen years worth of radio between some covers and throws in a CD compilation of about an hour’s worth of material from the archives.

There are conversations with writers: Alice Munro, Robertson Davies (twice), Margaret Atwood, W.O. Mitchell, Margaret Laurence, and Timothy Findley.

There are items from the ongoing Cookbook.

There is a play (Mourning Dove) and the first whack at a retrial of Louis Riel (which was recently redone on television), a journal about raising a child with Down’s Syndrome, a selection of formal letters from Canadians abroad, Voices from the North (Gzowski having been one of the first southern Canadians to admit that we were here), selections from journals on a variety of subjects, and letters of comment from readers.

Much to my surprise many of these selections were bite-sized and lent themselves to occasional dipping rather than sustained reading. This is by way of saying that the book took me six months to read, but it was never a strain and often quite a bit of fun.

The CD is a bonus and has given me some easy listening a few times already. It goes nicely with the double CD set of Gzowski material that CBC released last spring and which I may comment on here sometime.

The Morningside Years was published in 1997, and might, therefore, be a little hard to acquire. I got my copy at Mac’s Fireweed. Chapters says it’s out of print, but both Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble disagree with that, and I’ll just bet that Well-Read Books could scare up a copy. Out of all the volumes of Morningside Papers this is probably the one worth having.

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